East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat expressed his sympathy for the team's passionate supporters after their Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season ended in a disappointing 4-1 defeat against Punjab FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Punjab FC dominated the Kolkata giants with a stellar performance from their attacking trio of Wilmar Jordan Gil, Madih Talal, and Luka Majcen. The visitors started brightly, threatening early through Sayan Banerjee and Naorem Mahesh Singh.

However, Punjab FC struck first and forced East Bengal to chase the game. The Red and Gold Brigade responded quickly with an equalizer, but Punjab steadily tightened their grip on the match. Talal and Majcen found the net once each, while Gil scored his second, effectively shutting the door on East Bengal's playoff hopes.

“We started the game well and created some chances or half chances. We tried to score first against them (Punjab FC) and get the result. After they scored the first goal, the reaction was good to get 1-1. But the second goal that we conceded was really an unfortunate one,” Cuadrat said in the post-match press conference.

“I think that (conceding the second goal) makes things very difficult for us. We made some substitutions because we needed fresh legs. We were suffering physically because it had been three games in seven days,” he added.

The Spaniard made a couple of substitutions at the beginning of the second half, bringing in Aman CK and Shyamal Besra to increase the pace of the game, but their lack of precision in the final third cost his side points again in the league.

“We also started the second half well and got a clear chance with Aman CK, and it could be 2-2 there,” he said.

“We were in the game until the 60th minute. We were competitive for an hour. From there, I really saw that the players were very tired. We brought in Felicio (Brown Forbes) and made other changes. But when they scored the third goal, it was sure that we were going to struggle in the last minutes of the game, unfortunately,” he continued.

Despite not qualifying for the ISL playoff, Cuadrat’s men have showcased their dominance in the cup competitions, overcoming several difficulties. The Spaniard understands their supporters’ despair but believes that his team is on the right track to get back to glory days.

“I feel disappointed for the supporters and the people who love the club. But we have been fighting until the last game of the season, trying to reach the playoffs, and we were very close to getting it,” he commented.

“We came here (to East Bengal FC) with the idea of changing a lot of things. Because the dynamics were very negative in the last couple of seasons. So, generally, we are happy, we can see that it has been an evolution, lots of things happening, and the best season for the club in the ISL. We fought for trophies after long —four to five years. We reached the cup finals. We qualified for the Asian competition. We have been making lots of young players join the first team and preparing players for the future,” he explained.

“We are in the moment of rebirth, and we are going to make plans for the next season, and after this season’s experience, we have to build a squad that can take us to the playoffs and keep us fighting for trophies,” he signed off.